When it comes to cities that everyone should travel to once in their lives, Buenos Aires, Argentina is certainly high up that list. While there are a lot of reasons to make your way there, El Ateneo Grand Splendid is one stop that cannot be missed.
In the ranks of stunning, life-changing bookstores, El Ateneo is in a class all of its own. It is a remarkable place that any book lover needs to swing by in their adventures. And even if you’re not a book lover you should still make the trip.
Building El Ateneo Grand Splendid
This is about as classic a building as you’re going to find in Buenos Aires. It was originally designed as a theatre for impresario Max Glücksmann, opening its doors in 1919. Eventually, it became a cinema, a role it continued to fill for decades.
In 2000, things started to change as a new group leased the building, proceeding to conduct massive renovations to turn it into a bookstore. This group operates the El Ateneo publishing house in addition to El Ateneo and Yenny bookseller stores.
Maintaining the classic exterior was key though the insides were changed to accommodate its new destiny. In particular, theatre seating was removed and replaced with bookshelves. The massive renovation turned it into an unreal 22,000 square foot retail space.
Swinging by El Ateneo
Frankly, this spot is worth stopping by just to check out the architecture of the former theatre. But if you head inside, you would be in great company as more than a million people make the trip to El Ateneo Grand Splendid each year.
It was actually named the most beautiful bookstore in the world by National Geographic in 2019. The key to this is all of the architectural details left from the old days. That includes dramatic lighting and ornate carvings all over the place. The frescoes on the ceiling are not to be missed.
But even though you should take time to take all of these details, you are there to browse the books. And in 22,000 square feet, there is a lot to choose from. In fact, there are thousands upon thousands of titles on the shelves.
Part of the experience is the location
There’s no shame in traveling to check out incredibly cool bookstores. For some people, it’s the main reason they go to new places. But if you’re heading for Buenos Aires, there is so much to see and do, particularly in the area right around the bookstore.
Located on Santa Fe Avenue, El Ateneo is in the middle of the district filled with shops, restaurants, and other quintessential experiences in the city. Plus, there are various museums nearby as well as Plaza General San Martin.
Regardless of the reason you’re going to Buenos Aires, a stop by El Ateneo Grand Splendid is highly recommended. Anyone interested in literature, history, or architecture will find it absolutely fascinating and something worth at least a day of exploration.